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The Workplace Dance of Seduction

May 9, 2011

With a name (Salome) taken from records by the historian Josephus, linkage to a handful of verses of Mathew 14 and some pre-biblical origins referencing the goddess Ishtar, the story of Salome’s dance endures. It’s legacy includes a play by Oscar Wilde, an opera by Strauss, a 1953 movie starring Rita Hayworth and even a U2 song.

As the story goes, King Herod Antipas imprisoned John the Baptist after he criticized Herod’s marriage to his former sister-in-law. On the occasion of Herod’s birthday, his stepdaughter Salome performed a dance for Herod which so pleased him that he promised to give her whatever she wished. Prompted by her mother, Salome made the request “Give me here on a platter the head of John the Baptist.” Although Herod had not wanted to kill John and was somewhat uneasy about taking the step, he relented in order to save face in front of his dinner guests. John was beheaded, and his head was then brought on a platter to Salome who presented it to her mother (Happy Mother’s Day!!).

The details of the tale became more elaborate as the centuries progressed and the ultimate mythology not only bestowed a name upon our dancing girl but also gave a title to the dance (The Dance of the 7 Veils).  But more telling perhaps is the fact that over the years we’ve ascribed motivation to Salome and it’s pretty much accepted now that she wished to inflame Herod with sexual desire so that he would grant any wish; her ultimate wish being to decide John the Baptist’s fate who she also, so one story goes, kinda had a ‘thing’ for.

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The popular interpretation of The Dance of the 7 Veils is that it’s a striptease; the peeling away of successive layers with a purpose to draw in the viewer of the dance, entice them, and so addle their senses and their brain that they will consent to performing some action.

Behold – thy name is “Manipulation.”

And isn’t that a dance we’re pretty good at performing in the workplace?

  • Employers show candidates a tantalizing glimpse of the workplace or the scope of a job to hook them; but just enough – not too much.
  • Candidates seduce the hiring managers with tales of bravado, accomplishments and feats of heroism in the line of duty.
  • Leaders dangle promotions in front of staff members; encouraging them to perform harder, faster, better because “…when Joe retires, you’re first in line for his Vice President job!”
  • Employees overpromise what they can ultimately deliver in order to win someone over or get a pat on the back.
  • People force their personal agendas on others, disregarding the concepts of collaboration and listening to others.
  • Managers who want to be liked/adored/praised by their staff give in to manipulative behaviors by allowing poor performers or staff members with inappropriate behavior to continue acting in the same manner.
  • Tears and tales-of-woe are often used to great effect.
  • And while it’s pretty unlikely to result in a beheading in 2011, sexually flirtatious behavior is still used to move things along.

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People have always indulged in all sorts of manipulative tactics at work – using underhanded indirect tactics to achieve their goals.   Whether subtle, sneaky or downright blatant, manipulation in the workplace will never disappear – until we’re replaced by robots. Maybe.

What’s a classic case of workplace seduction/manipulation you’ve witnessed? Have you ever employed a special technique to manipulate someone? Come on you can share.

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2 Comments leave one →
  1. May 23, 2011 5:38 am

    Oh my word. I am watching this one play out in my workplace right now. Long, drawn out story, suffice to say I feel sorry for the person hired to fill this role and am interested, in a schadenfreude-ish way, in how all this plays out

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